Dogs have a very keen sense of hearing. They are intelligent animals that can easily be trained. They also make great friends of human beings. Be it for hunting or for companionship, dogs have proved to be man's best friends since ages.
What are Hearing Dogs?
These are special dogs that are also known as dogs for the deaf. These dogs are specially trained to help individuals who are mute and deaf or have impaired hearing. They are trained to alert their handlers for sounds like the doorbell, alarm clocks, and telephone rings. With proper training, they are able to distinguish between normal sounds and sounds of emergency like smoke alarms. Other than helping their owners around the house, they also alert them to horns of automobiles, or when someone calls out his/her name.
Training the Dog
Although dogs are alert animals with quick reflexes, it is not that any dog can become a hearing dog. Dogs are first screened for proper temperament, willingness to cooperate, and sensitivity to sound. Those that clear this test are then considered to be trained. There are special dog trainers to carry out this task. These dogs are then trained in basic obedience, which includes responding to commands like 'sit', 'come', 'stay', and other commands given by the handler. They are then made familiar with things like elevators, shopping carts, and different people that they would meet when they are out with their owners at public places. This training usually lasts for about a year. However, some may complete the training earlier. During the training, these dogs are made to recognize and differentiate between various sounds. They also learn to be physically alert, and react quickly during times of emergency.
Getting Dogs for the Deaf
Responding to the increasing demand for hearing dogs, a large number of organizations have formed in recent years that professionally train dogs. Individuals who are interested can visit such associations and take a look at the dogs available there. It is always advisable that one spends some time with a dog that he is interested in, because it is important that the dog likes his new owner, just as much as the owner likes him, and both need to get along well. It is important to ensure that the two strike up a good rapport. There are also those individuals who do not like getting a hearing dog from such places, but prefer to train their dogs on their own.
Dogs trained to assist the deaf are allowed in public places in most countries. In many countries, there are also special tags like a bright orange collar or leash, so that they can be recognized by the general public. In the United Kingdom, these dogs often wear burgundy jackets. As per Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, hearing dogs are allowed in all public places, even in those where normal pets are not allowed, like restaurants or public modes of transport. In fact, in some states, denying access to such dogs into any place is a criminal offense.
Dog breeds like the Labrador, Golden Retriever, and Poodle, are very commonly used for this purpose. However, there is a large variety of dogs that can be trained to become a hearing dog. What is even better is that many of the organizations rescue dogs, and after testing their temperament, train them for this purpose.
Besides being used as hearing dogs, there are trained dogs that serve as dogs for the blind and disabled. As per the disabilities of their owners, these dogs are be trained accordingly. However, the fact remains that time and again, dogs have proved to be man's best friend, sometimes as hunters, companions, and other times as dogs for the deaf and the disabled.